The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $187 million consent decree with the city of San Diego, Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Baykeeper that requires improvements in the city's sewage collection system.
The consent decree will be lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. This consent decree specifies measures that San Diego will undertake during the next year, while the parties continue to work on a long-term agreement to prevent future spills of raw sewage from San Diego's system.
According to the terms of the consent decree, the city of San Diego will continue their enhanced: inspection and maintenance programs in the city's wastewater collection system; system-wide cleaning, root control, sewer pipe inspection, repair or replacement; and, grease control blockage programs.
The EPA and the city of San Diego signed the consent decree despite the city experiencing a unique series of political, legal and financial challenges. The parties will meet later this year to complete a comprehensive long-term strategy to remedy San Diego's sewage and wastewater problems. If the parties can agree to such a strategy, it would be the culmination of a multi-year effort by the EPA to address the city's sewage collection system spills.
The EPA issued an administrative order three years ago that has resulted in the city enhancing its sewer collection system maintenance and capital improvement programs. Thereafter, EPA filed a complaint, seeking a long-term court-sanctioned resolution to the problems, joining forces with the environmental groups, who had already filed a Clean Water Act citizens' lawsuit against the city of San Diego.
"We are pleased to see that the city of San Diego's spill rate has been reduced in recent years. We will continue to work with the city of San Diego to ensure all commitments, including repair of the sewage collection system, are met," said Alexis Strauss, director of water programs in the EPA's Pacific Southwest office.
San Diego's Municipal Wastewater Collection System collects wastewater from approximately 1.2 million residents over 330 sq. miles. The system has an estimated 2,800 miles of sewer lines and 84 pumping stations.
Untreated sewage is hazardous to human health because it carries microbiological contamination; exposure to sewage can risk exposure to gastroenteritis, salmonella infection, dysentery, or hepatitis.
The consent decree is subject to a 30 day public comment period and will require final court approval before becoming effective.